US Supreme Court To Hear NC Man's Case - myfoxcarolinas.com

US Supreme Court To Hear NC Man's Case

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What started as a failed bank robbery in September 2008 led to a Belmont woman's death, but in an unusual way.

Larry Whitfield tried to rob Fort Financial Credit Union in Gastonia with an AK-47 but his attempt failed. During Whitfield's escape, he cornered 79-year-old Mary Parnell in her own home.

Parnell died of a heart attack in her computer room. Whitfield was originally sentenced to life in prison, essentially for scaring Parnell to death. But his conviction was tossed by an appeals court.

Now the United States Supreme Court will decide if Whitfield forcibly moved Parnell after the bank robbery. That's the legal definition of the crime that earned him the life sentence.

"The Supreme Court case has kind of brought it all back to us," David Hains, Parnell's son-in-law, said. "Our family is shocked and saddened that this case is going on."

Larry Whitfield is scheduled to be released in May 2032, but depending how the Supreme Court rules, he could win his freedom earlier.

"Our family got to know Mr. Winfield through what he said to police officers," said Hains. "This is a very, very dangerous person. He represents a danger to our society and he should be in prison for as long as we can possibly keep him there."

Whitfield's attorney Joshua Carpenter of Asheville based Federal Defenders of Western Carolina wouldn't comment on the pending case. But Charlotte Attorney Matthew Fleishman says the Supreme Court probably wants to set a definition of what forcible accompaniment means.

"The question of course is, if I am robbing the bank and I grab you from one end of the bank to the other, is that enough to satisfy it," Fleishman said. "Or, do I have to have you at gunpoint and take you as a hostage outside? These are the questions and different courts have come to different decisions when interpreting it."

Whatever decision the Supreme Court makes, the Parnell family says the outcome will remain the same.

"He barged into her home after robbing a bank and he scared her to death," Hains said. "My mother-in-law would not have died had Mr. Whitfield not barged into her home and led her or whatever into another room."

For the Parnell family this is not an exercise in legal hair-splitting. It's a clear case of cause and effect.


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